Michael Jordan blamed food poisoning from tainted pizza for his illness during Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, better known as the flu game. Jordan’s trainer, Tim Grover, has repeatedly said five guys suspiciously delivered the pizza. Jordan’s personal assistant, George Koehler, corroborated that story in “The Last Dance” documentary.
Craig Fite has a different account.
In a fascinating interview on 1280 The Zone, the Utah man said he made and delivered the pizza and even took extra care in making it – in part because he was a Bulls fan.
Fite said he was assistant manager at the Park City Pizza Hut when the restaurant received a delivery order for the hotel where the Bulls were staying. Fite said someone pieced together the order might be for someone with the team. That intrigued Fite, who said he was known around the restaurant as a Bulls fan among Jazz fans.
I was like, “Hey, I will make the pizza.” And I remember saying this: “I will make the pizza, because I don’t want any of you doing anything to it.” And then I said, I told the driver, “You’re going to take me there. It’ll be my first delivery.”
That pizza was made well. I followed all the rules. Heck, I was – at the time, I was so busy trying to impress to become the store manager there, I followed all the rules.
I said, “Let me wash my hands. I’m going to make this pizza.” Because I wasn’t on the table. Then, after that, for months after that – I was working there still – everyone was like, “Whatever you do, don’t wash your hands. You’ll get someone sick.” It was kind of a running gag.
Fite said he prepared the large thin-crust extra-pepperoni pie then possessed it the entire time, including passing through security as he and the driver entered the hotel. He said they took the elevator to the Bulls’ floor.
As soon as that door opened, it felt like you got punched in the face with cigar smoke.
Someone got excited seeing the pizza, Fite said. But when Fite informed the person of the room number for delivery, the inquirer backed off and said the pizza was for Jordan.
Fite said he knocked on the door, and “This great guy who’s been saying all this crap lately” cracked it open. The door opener (presumably Grover or Koehler) paid and tipped.
“I’m handing him the pizza, and I said, “Hey, can I at least say hi to Mike?” Why not? It’s my one shot, right? And the door kind of opens up a little bit more. Mike is sitting in the room, sitting at the chair. He’s playing cards or whatever and raises his hand and says, “Thanks, man.” And then the guy looked at me and shut the door. And that’s the extent of the whole story.
Fite insists only he and the driver – two people – delivered the pizza. To give Grover and Koehler the benefit of the doubt, perhaps others passing in the hallway behind Fite and the driver stopped to get a peak of Jordan. Maybe Grover and Koehler mistook others for deliverymen.
Considering the store closed at 11 p.m., Fite said he delivered the pizza at about 10 or 10:30 p.m.
That’d poke another hole in the most sordid rumors – that Jordan flew to Las Vegas or partied late at Robert Redford’s chateau the night before Game 5. Sure, it’s possible Jordan was hungover the next day. But placing him in his hotel room at 10 or 10:30 reduces possibilities.
Which brings us back to food poisoning.
Of course, when this whole thing happened, I got called by the district manager, “OK, if one guy got sick, how many others are we going to have to deal with?” And there were no other reports. Nobody else got sick. In fact, later on, a few years later, I had talked to a few people that had gotten pizza that night, too. And who knows much truth is in it? But they’re like, “No, it was fine.”
Ultimately, that’s the issue: “Who knows much truth is in it?” Everyone is sharing impossible-to-prove stories from many years ago. People can misremember or even fabricate.
What we know: Jordan looked ill, played great anyway and led the Bulls to a win then championship. However he got sick, it’s still an incredible accomplishment.